Column: Of challenging speaking engagements, inspiring audiences and great books

Two months ago I had the pleasure of being a guest speaker at a course on strategic management at the Summerville Campus of Augusta University.

 

The class consisted of 24 scholars at the James M. Hull College of Business, most of whom were about to graduate.

I arrived early and got a chance to visit with a few of the early arrivals. I was especially interested in how they charted their future – did they have a job upon graduation, did they plan to go on to graduate study, or did they have other plans? Their stories were uplifting.

One student was headed to Seattle for a job she was especially pleased to get. When asked how she found the job and how she managed to get hired, she explained that Linked-In and a series of interviews made it happen.

Another scholar was already fully employed at Hope House. Her plans were to go on to law school. Another is working for the Augusta Country Club as he is pursuing a double major at Augusta University.

 

After my talk, a scholar from northern Minnesota told me she was attending Augusta University on a golf scholarship and was headed for a job in Chicago. Another was already a full-time employee at E-Z-GO.

During my workshop, the questions I was asked were good ones. Here are some samples:

What is my all-time favorite book? (my answer: there are two: Give and Take and Killer Angels).

What is the best way to become a good public speaker? (my answers: Take a course in public speaking. Grab every opportunity to make public presentations. Practice your speech at least three times. To hold the attention of the audience, speak without notes and, sometime during your talk, look each person in the eye).

Tell me about your mentors. (my answer: mentorship can be very helpful. I never had a personal mentor but I had a wonderful role model in Gen. George Marshall).

How do you handle someone who steals your ideas and takes credit for them? (my answer: try not to let this selfish activity bother you. If that person implements the idea and it helps the organization all the better).

 

The Augusta University professor who invited me to speak was Dr. Tony Robinson. Although no longer a full-time faculty member, Tony continues to teach at the Hull College of Business and serves on the college’s strategic planning committee. Before Robinson arrived at the classroom, I asked the scholars their thoughts about him as their professor. The answers: “He is great” and “We love him.”

In addition to his corporate experience, Robinson has been very involved in support of worthy causes in the Augusta/Aiken area. He serves as the chairman of the board of the Augusta Warrior Project and has been active in support of Leadership Augusta.

Also, Tony may be the best strategic planner in Augusta. Last year, I participated in a daylong strategic planning workshop for the Augusta Warrior Project. This workshop was conceived and led by Tony. Eighty people participated. We all learned a lot and the resulting strategic plan was very impressive. This plan is being implemented by Kim Elle and her fine staff of the Augusta Warrior Project.

Robinson is enthusiastic about the future of the Hull College of Business. The new dean of the college, Rick Franza, is a real visionary. Franza has charted a path that should take the school to even higher levels of excellence.

 

In addition to my teaching at Augusta University, I have the pleasure of conducting workshops on a regular basis at Fort Gordon. The Fort Gordon audience is a particularly challenging one. It consists of about 60 Army officers at the rank of major. These officers have somewhere between 10 and 14 years of military service, are in their 30s and, in most cases, have had combat experience in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. They are attending a four-month course at the Fort Gordon satellite campus of the Army Command and General Staff College. Upon graduation on March 1, they will move on to positions of greater responsibility.

Taking these fine military professionals out 20 years into the future can be a real mind-stretching experience. It helps them break loose from day-to-day issues and to think strategically. Having served as the Air Force planner in the Pentagon, I try to help them understand how the strategic planning process works. I also point out the advantage of thinking strategically, not only in the military, but in their families, churches and worthy causes of all types.

To all audiences, new books are recommended. A World In Disarray by Richard Haass; Destined for War by Graham Allison; and Grant by Ron Chernow top my most recent list.

 

Perry M Smith is the co-author (with Jeff Foley) of the best selling book Rules and Tools for Leaders. Smith’s email address is genpsmith@aol.com; web site: genpsmith.com

 

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